student writing

How do we evaluate young learners’ writing?

A key factor in helping young learners progress in the writing skill is making sure they are involved in the evaluation of their writing.

Here are the positives we can help them with:

  • understanding standards
  • recognizing what they have done well
  • developing ability to judge their own work
  • learning how to learn from others
  • becoming self-regulating
  • autonomous learning across all subjects

Read on for a four-step process of assessment to use with young learners of English.

Here’s how to involve learners in their evaluation:

1. Before any assessment task AGREE ON THE JUDGEMENT CRITERIA with the class. Talk about what is expected in each task (can do in the students’ L1). Young learners have huge variation in skills, so we need a broad spectrum of assessment (i.e. many tools in our toolkit). Remember to mix core and support skills so there is always a positive reward.

Here are some example skills that you can judge in students’ writing (for more check out my previous blog post):

2. Next, elicit from learners what the EVIDENCE will be for the criteria.

3. Decide together HOW TO REWARD, e.g. on a scale of very good – good — okay. NB not numbers score

4. Lastly, ALLOW LEARNERS TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK on the assessment.

Note: All these discussions can be in L1 because then students will be able to use their writing skills and understanding in L1 to support their English.

Feedback on assessment: four options

1. Self-assessment

Why? The ability to judge one’s own work builds across experience and time so that students develop the tools to become autonomous learners

How to implement?

  • Decide a maximum of 2 criteria (1 x core, 1 x support)
  • Mix a skill they are likely to have got right with one that they may need to think about more.

Example of self assessment:

  • Did I include everything? If you have pre-planned in class then they should have done this well
  • Did I check my work? Can they now make it better? Spot any issues?
  • Ask students to assess their work individually, go round helping then build to class discussion

Extra tip: Introduce self assessment before peer assess so they understand the parameters before having to judge others and be judged.

2. Peer assessment


  • Peer assessment provides the learning opportunity to see how others have approached a task
  • Judging others reinforces standards & allows self-reflection on the standard

How to implement?

  • Start with criteria they are familiar with from self-assessment
  • Introduce this with only two criteria, i.e. a positive and a possible improve point or ‘what I would have done differently’. Once students are comfortable you can increase criteria they work with.
  • Be precise in judgement questions to help them, e.g. not ‘Was the vocabulary good?’ but ‘Did you use the right vocabulary for the task?’
  • Reminds students that if they think their partner’s work could be better, they must be able to say how, i.e. give advice or detail of what the work needs.
  • Again introduce short scale
  • Allow pairs to discuss after they have made their assessment. This is important to allow them to vocalize standards and check understanding with each other.
  • Swap pairs regularly; make sure they don’t always work with the same person.   
  • Go round checking the feedback students are giving to each other
  • Allow students to repeat task so they can implement improvements.

Example of peer assessment questions:

Did my partner do everything in the task?
Could my partner have used more/different vocabulary?

3. Group assessments


  • Builds confidence because students have similarities confirmed whether with good points or mistakes
  • Collaborative as students work out improvements or solutions together; takes risk away from getting things wrong

How to implement?

  • Agree criteria with class before starting task
  • Students judge their own work individually
  • Then they come together in a group and discuss their answers and offer support. For example, if one person thinks they did not cover a task well, then others help with ’what to do’ ideas OR if all they have been too slow to do a task then they can discuss strategies for how to do more quickly e.g., planning, etc.

Example of group assessment questions:

How well did I cover the task?
How much range did I use in vocabulary?
How quickly did I do the task?

Extra Tip: Students can do this offline and report back or do synchronously in rooms while you listen in.

4. Teacher assessment

Feedback is the ESSENTIAL component in teacher assessment.


  • To monitor progress in order to plan future lessons
  • To give feedback to support improvements


  • Say what they did do or need to do – not what they didn’t do.
  • Make sure you focus on tasks and not personal.
  • Ensure every feedback point has an improvement point to help/support them.
  • Allow students to repeat task to achieve success.

Example of teacher assessment:

Extra Tip: Don’t automatically use teacher assessment! Keep it for more obvious ‘testing’ scenarios. Recognize the value and judgement it carries; students will be most worried about teacher feedback.

NB with writing and young learners it’s better to give written rather than oral feedback, to give students thinking time.

Make sure to: (a) note in L1 OR (b) oral as whole class discussion and (c) repeat immediately


  • Use supportive criteria that help progress
  • Don’t judge too much at once
  • Agree judgement criteria with learner input
  • Remember feedback is the purpose of assessment
  • Use different assessment formats across classes / the term
  • Agree any logging of the assessment with learners

For more advice on assessing young learners’ writing, be sure to watch Elaine Boyd’s full webinar here.

Author: Elaine Boyd

Elaine has been working in language assessment for over 30 years working for a range of international exam boards. She has written several exam coursebooks for primary and secondary learners for leading international publishers. She has also developed courses in assessment literacy and formative assessment for teachers and teacher trainers. She conducts research into issues in classroom assessment and feedback and has a particular focus on primary learners. Elaine is a series consultant for Look , a seven-level primary series from National Geographic Learning.

One comment

  1. This reminds me to include students assessment during the performance Task, for the improvement of everyone. Thank you for this

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